News & Politics

Sen. Tom Cotton Demands IRS Investigation into SPLC's Tax-Exempt Status

Sen. Tom Cotton Demands IRS Investigation into SPLC's Tax-Exempt Status
The 2018 SPLC hate map.

On Tuesday, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) sent a letter to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) demanding an investigation into whether or not the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) should lose its tax-exempt status. His letter comes after weeks of turmoil with the SPLC struggling with scandals of alleged racism and sexism. The organization fired its co-founder, saw its president and other leaders resign, and lost a prominent member of its board.

“I am writing to urge you to investigate whether the Southern Poverty Law Center should retain its classification as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization,” Cotton begins his letter. “Recent news reports have confirmed the long-established fact that the SPLC regularly engages in defamation of its political opponents. In fact, the SPLC’s defining characteristic is to fundraise off of defamation.”

Cotton notes that “the SPLC has accrued more than $500 million in assets. According to the group’s most recent financial statement, it holds $121 million offshore in non-U.S. equity funds. The SPLC uses these assets to pay its executives lavish salaries far higher than the comparable household average.”

The senator noted the racism scandal, which I discussed on Tucker Carlson Tonight last month.

“Based on these reports, and in the interest of protecting taxpayer dollars from a racist and sexist slush fund devoted to defamation, I believe that the SPLC’s conduct warrants a serious and thorough investigation,” Cotton writes.

“Engaging in systematic defamation is not a tax-exempt purpose,” the senator declared. “While IRS guidance lists several examples of tax-exempt purposes, engaging in defamation as a business model is of course not one of them.”

Cotton alleged that the far-left smear factory engages in defamation through its “hate map,” which “ostensibly identifies hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and the Nation of Islam. But under the guise of its ‘hate map,’ the SPLC also lists its mainstream political opponents and faith-based groups, including reputable organizations such as the Family Research Council, the Alliance Defending Freedom, and the Center for Immigration Studies.”

Indeed, the hate map vastly overstates the number of “hate groups,” both by smearing mainstream organizations like FRC, ADF, and CIS, and by counting every single chapter of an organization as a separate “hate group.” A PJ Media analysis found that there are at most 335 true “hate groups,” despite the SPLC’s claim that there are 1,020.

Cotton’s letter also rightly cites the case of Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz, whom the SPLC labeled an “anti-Muslim extremist.” Nawaz sued, and the smear factory apologized, paying his nonprofit Quilliam Foundation $3.375 million in a settlement. About 60 organizations started considering lawsuits of their own after this settlement.

Cotton’s letter also rightly noted the 2012 terrorist attack inspired by the “hate map.” In 2012, Floyd Lee Corkins II attempted to murder everyone at FRC, and he was only stopped by a brave security guard.

“Perhaps the SPLC was founded for noble purposes and decades ago performed some good work, but what is left of the SPLC is no longer operating in a manner consistent with IRS guidelines and applicable law,” Cotton declares. “Based on this concerning information and the flood of recent reports, I encourage you to take immediate action.”

Cotton’s letter is not the first attack on the SPLC’s tax-exempt status. Last December, Baltimore lawyer Glen Keith Allen filed a mammoth lawsuit against the far-left smear factory. Among other things, he alleged that the SPLC’s penchant for attacking “far-right groups” and primarily Republicans constituted a violation of the rules for 501(c)(3) status. Tax-exempt groups under this status cannot engage in political campaigning.

“The SPLC’s 501c3 status  rests on its claim to be pursuing an educational mission, but for decades it has wandered far from that mission into highly partisan, hypocritical, and in some cases fraudulent activities,” Allen told PJ Media on Tuesday. “Its exploitation of its 501c3 status brings discredit to the entire nonprofit sector. It is no more a 501c3 than is a supermarket tabloid.”

“I also believe the IRS should investigate whether the SPLC has complied with rules of professional ethics, which it is required to do as a purported 501c3 public interest law firm,” Allen added, noting another claim in his lawsuit, that the SPLC abetted theft in it attacks against him.

Last month, the SPLC hired a high-powered lawyer to defend itself from Allen’s suit, suggesting it takes this attack very seriously. The smear group has filed a motion to dismiss, but Allen has filed motions against it.

The far-left smear group faces many other lawsuits as well.

In 2017, the charity navigation website GuideStar marked each organization on the SPLC list as a “hate group” on its website. Liberty Counsel filed a lawsuit. Shortly thereafter, the Christian nonprofit D. James Kennedy Ministries filed a lawsuit against Amazon and the SPLC, after realizing that it was excluded from Amazon Smile over the SPLC list.

CIS is suing for wire fraud under RICO. Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes is also suing for defamation.

Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.